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Could we deliver aid before a disaster strikes? (Devex)

August 1, 2018

By Burton Bollag 

WASHINGTON — As a young expert in disaster risk reduction with the German Red CrossThorsten Klose-Zuber visited Bangladesh in 2010, where he witnessed the devastating floods that can occur when monsoons and tropical storms hit this overcrowded, low-lying country.

When floods inundate grazing land, smallholder farmers are often unable to feed their cows and have to sell them at cut-rate prices before fleeing with their families to higher ground. In some cases, they take out high-interest loans to transport their animals with them, and can end up indebted for years. International aid often follows, providing emergency food, shelter, and supplies to help people start rebuilding their lives after the waters recede. 

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A further issue is that relief organizations often have no budget category for predisaster spending.

“They are not mandated to use the money for something that is not disaster relief,” said van Aalst. As the idea takes off, more formal spending categories could be created, driven by both operational groups and donors. 

Finally, “while forecast-based financing is perfectly sensible,” Owen Barder, a vice president of the Center for Global Development, told Devex, there are strong political disincentives against it. “Politicians get less political benefit from averting disasters than they get from rescuing people after a disaster has happened,” he said. 

Read the full article here.

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Owen Barder
Vice President, Director of CGD Europe, and Senior Fellow